Haggling abroad… as a rule of thumb offer 10% of their start price!

I’m shocked at the results of last week’s Haggling Poll… The question was what would your opening price be for goods costing £120 when in a country known for haggling?

Of the 8,892 people who voted:

12% said £15 or less
20% said £20 – £30
29% said £40 – £50
21% said £60 – £70
15% said £80 – £90
3% said £100 – £110
0% said the full £120

Read full haggling abroad poll results.

Most people are paying massively over the odds. My personal rule of thumb is if you’re in a country/place known for haggling don’t ever open by offering more than 10% of the opening price and don’t pay more than 20%. Many will think this is far too low; and of course that’s the point, when we jolly foreigners come along with our tourist cameras, slapped on sun tan, being led by a guide; we’re walking pound signs. The prices are massively lifted in the safe knowledge that out of politeness we’d never dream of slicing them down.

The best way to prove this is if you ever go somewhere where you have a friend who’s a local. First go yourself and see what price you get, then go with them.

Watching Americans Haggling in Tangier

The best way I can describe the process is to give you an example from a recent day trip tour of Tangier, Morocco (while on holiday in Southern Spain). Having been quickly marshalled around by the guide, who officiously made sure there was no time to see the market or spend there; suddenly we were guided into a large hand-crafted rugs shop (he was evidentially on commission) where we were told we had an hour to look around!

After a yawn-inducing demonstration of the rugs, that most people had not a moment’s interest in, we were treated to a description of their immense quality, hours of labour and ‘no-charge shipping’ worldwide. The only takers were a family from Florida who the MSG and I happened to be sitting next to. She thought the rugs were ‘divine’, and rather untactically told the seller that before asking for the price, his reply was $3,000 (about £1,700). Next I was treated to them discussing this, how much they should offer, the fact they couldn’t afford it as they thought they’d need to ‘pay around $2,000’. As we couldn’t leave, the conversation was just too grating, so eventually I intervened…

“I hope you don’t mind, but roughly 10% is about the right amount to start with, so I’d go for about $300”. She couldn’t believe it and said “thanks, but surely that’d be rude, I’d insult him, it has to be higher”; eventually after a bit of persuasion, and as I’d asked her how much she could pay, she told me she could afford about $600; so I got her to go for $500. Of course the chief rug seller played his part to perfection, almost spitting “it’s an insult, thousand of hours went into making that, it’s a disgrace”. Just as predicted.

So I suggested she walk away, but (as I’d suggested) he wouldn’t let it go, following her and asking how much she’d be willing to pay. After a while he settled for $550, only $50 more than the insulting amount, and I saw him laughing and joking with his staff a few minutes later, very pleased with the sale. The American tourist was delighted with the $550 bargain and thanked me. If you ask me though, she paid roughly double what she could have.

It depends where you are

Of course that was in the centre of Haggles-ville; if you’re in a similar tourist souk or market the 10% rule works- though elsewhere you need to start higher. And when I say elsewhere, I mean it. Haggling on the UK high-street is acceptable and works (as has been discussed here many times before). You can also haggle for mobile phonescar insurancedigital TV and even package holidays. Never be scared to ask for a discount, maybe not 90% off the price, but even if you’re buying a Ferrari… expect to pay a lot less than the asking price.

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